Castle Roy is a 12th-century castle near Nethy Bridge in the Highlands of Scotland. Within the last few years, it has received much remedial work to stop the castle from further disrepair. After local newspapers covered the repair work and launch in September, I discovered the existence of Castle Roy. I decided to visit with my family after a pre-Christmas holiday in Aviemore in late November.
Castle Roy Car Park
We rolled up to the car park on a cold winter's morning after a quick stop at the beautiful Loch Garten, a short distance to the south. The frozen puddles crunched underfoot as we exited the car in the dedicated car park directly next to the castle... it wasn't the castle the kids noticed first, though; it was Murdo, the highland cow, who was there to greet us and pose for photos. My daughter Olivia was particularly taken with him.
There are many informational boards in the car park explaining the recent repairs to the castle along with its interesting history. There was no ticket office or admission fee, so we followed the brand new path up to the castle and opted to turn right and follow the path instead of climbing the steep muddy path to the ruined corner of the castle. The new paths are lovely, with light gravel leading up to the main entrance.
Entering Castle Roy
The official entrance is the best way to access the castle, there is an information board, and the archway has been finished off with metal bordering to make it safe from falling masonry.
What strikes you most about entering Castle Roy is the height and thickness of the walls - 25ft (7.6m) high and 7ft (2.1m) thick!
The interior courtyard area has been beautifully restored, with a grassy centre and gravel path to all four corners. This area would originally have housed wooden buildings protected within the thick high walls.
The castle is an irregular four-sided stronghold with very little done to it over the centuries, making it a fantastic snapshot of castle design from that period.
A wooden gantry takes you up to the north-western corner/tower of the castle, leading to more information boards and a window (with an original lintel) to the views to the north and over the castle interior itself. They also have a Scottish Saltire flying proudly here. This tower area also has an inscribed stone with two sets of initials containing three letters (which I, unfortunately, forgot to photograph!).
Although the southeast corner of the castle has disintegrated, the space has been capitalised upon by building a viewing platform which gives an absolutely breathtaking view of the Cairngorm mountains and the Abernethy Old Kirk.
Outside the castle boundary to the west is another great viewing platform with an information board, naming the sights that can be seen, including the names of the mountain peaks on the horizon.
The History of Castle Roy
Here is a very brief outline of the history of Castle Roy.
1190 to 1220 - Clan Comyn built Castle Roy upon a small glacial mound.
1226 - Alexander II grants Lordship of the Abernethy to James Earl of Mar.
1306 - The Comyn family are wiped out by Robert the Bruce.
1381 - Alexander Stewart becomes Lord of the Castle.
1560 - Mary Queen of Scots makes James Stewart (her half-brother) the first Earl of Moray.
1420 - Clan Grant gains stewardship of Castle Roy and remains the dominant clan in this area today.
1592 - John Grant gains Lordship of Abernethy.
1994 - The Castle Roy Trust gains ownership of the castle and stalwartly begins its restoration work on the castle and its grounds.
2022 - The Castle officially opens to the public on the 25th of September.
Castle Roy Trust
The Castle Roy Trust was formed over 30 years ago, and it's incredible what they have achieved in that time to make the castle safe again, not only for visitors but weddings and performances on the grounds.
Their mission statement says it all, really:
Our aim is to preserve the Castle, as it stands, for future generations. To maintain it as a free, all abilities, visitor and education centre and to create a community venue for the outdoor performing arts and other events, such as weddings and family parties.
It's amazing what they have achieved when compared to older photographs. They have transformed this castle into a fantastic tourist attraction.
The village of Nethy Bridge is situated within the Strathspey area of the Highlands, surrounded by beautiful forests and mountains. Nethy Bridge has a great deal to offer, including hotels, B&Bs, and self-catering accommodation but also boasts access to many outdoor activities, one of the most impressive being the ancient Caledonian pine forest and the absolutely beautiful Loch Garten a short distance away. Nethy Bridge Community Centre is a hub for the town.
The forests at Nethy boast many rare species, including:
Abernethy Old Kirk
I didn't have time to investigate this old church, but I took a quick photo of the grounds. There are some impressive-looking headstones that I will check out in future! The Kirk of Abyrnethy features on Timothy Pont's map.
Castle Roy FAQs
Here are a few frequently asked questions on Castle Roy.
How old is Castle Roy?
The castle has been officially carbon-dated to 1190 - 1220, making the castle around 822 years old! Castle Roy may be the oldest masonry fortification in Scotland.
Why is it called Castle Roy?
No one is sure where the castle got its name, perhaps a member of the Comyn family, who were prolific castle builders in central Scotland... or from the Gaelic term "ràth", meaning ancient fortress/mound/royal seat.
How to get to Castle Roy
Castle Roy is just a 3-minute drive north from the picturesque modern village of Nethy Bridge. Just follow the B970 north out of the town for 1 mile, and you will see Abernethy Old Kirk and Castle Roy on the hill behind it.
If coming from the north, then you should be travelling on the A95; taking a left turn at this junction along the B970 will see you arrive at the castle, which will be situated on your right.
Is there parking at Castle Roy?
Yes, free parking is available directly next to the castle.
Is it free to visit Castle Roy?
Yes, there is no admission fee to explore Castle Roy, but why not give them a donation in one of the boxes for the beautiful job they have done restoring the castle?
Can motorhomes stay overnight at Castle Roy?
Surprisingly motorhomes and campervans are welcome to spend the night at the Castle Roy car park; however, there can be no dumping of waste water due to the grazing animals within the nearby fields. So why not give a donation for your stay?
Is camping available at Castle Roy?
There are no ideal places for camping at the castle, and I wouldn't recommend it as an option.
Is there a highland cow at Castle Roy?
Yes! When we visited "Murdo", the highland cow was there to greet us with his friend Buster, the sheep. He seemed pretty friendly but has some impressive horns; I would be wary if going too close!
Are there picnic facilities at Castle Roy?
Yes, there are numerous picnic tables around the site.
Where is the nearest Cafe to Castle Roy?
Nethy House Cafe is an excellent place to eat in Nethy Bridge.
Are there toilets at Castle Roy?
No, there are no public toilets available at the castle. Nethy Bridge nearby has public toilets located here.
Are there other castles worth exploring nearby?
Yes, Ballindalloch Castle and Drumin Castle are well worth your time and only around a 20-30 minute drive from Castle Roy. Ballindalloch is completely intact, with beautiful gardens, a self-guided tour and a cafe. The Bridge of Avon is also a beautiful place to stop right on the A95. Drumin Castle is a ruin but fascinating and well worth exploring.
Ruthven Barracks, south of Aviemore, is around a 35-minute drive and has an interesting history with the Jacobite rebellions. Ruthven was also built upon the site of a Comyn family castle.
Castle Roy Videos
Here are a few short videos of our visit to Castle Roy.
Castle Roy is a short distance north of Nethy Bridge on the B970.
There is a free dedicated car park.
Motorhomes can stay the night at the car park.
The castle is around 822 years old.
The castle is looked after by the brilliant Castle Roy Trust and had its official opening in September 2022.
Abernethy Old Kirk has some interesting gravestones to see.
We had a lovely visit to Castle Roy on this cold crisp winter's morning, the new paths and archways in the castle make visiting a joy, and the views from the castle walls are spectacular. It's nice to see how they have saved this castle for future generations, and the Castle Roy Trust should be commended for their efforts.
I highly recommend stopping at Castle Roy while travelling the A95 or visiting Nethy Bridge.
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